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Prep athletes have to go the extra mile to earn college scholarships

Posted: August 21, 2013 9:10 p.m.
Updated: August 21, 2013 9:10 p.m.

A computer screen shot shows the football profile website for Hart senior running back Connor Wingenroth.

 

Thousands of colleges across the country are recruiting athletes for all kinds of sports.

The NCAA alone reported that more than 450,000 collegiate athletes participated in the 2011-12 season. And that number has continued to grow through the years.

So in the vast world of college recruiting, what do high school kids and their parents have to do to stand out? And how much does it cost?

Some of the local recruiting success stories can help paint the picture, particularly in sports like football, baseball and softball, which have produced high numbers of college athletes locally.

“All you need is a net, a tee, a glove and a bat and some balls. That’s it,” said West Ranch softball head coach Bob Shults, whose daughter, Jessica Shults, played college softball. “That’s all we did. We went out with a bat and some balls in the backyard.”

Jessica later landed a scholarship to the University of Oklahoma, where she was a standout player for four years.

Though Bob Shults went on to explain that there was more to it than a bat and some balls in the backyard.

There were the expenses of playing for travel ball teams and attending showcase tournaments, though he said “I think the expense is no more than any other family vacation.”

But Shults’ story may be the exception.

As it becomes increasingly difficult for athletes to get the attention of colleges, more and more recruiting agencies emerge.

These organizations, most of them internet based, target high school athletes and sometimes charge a fee in exchange for assisting those kids in getting connected with colleges.

One of the more popular and reputable recruiting agencies is National Collegiate Scouting Association (NCSA) Athletic Recruiting.

“We provide this information to these coaches and because of their trust in us,” said Randy Taylor, director of recruiting experts at NCSA. “We then make them feel comfortable that this is a kid that’s close with us.”

NCSA is on the pricey side, charging clients anywhere from a little less than $800 to around $1,500, though the NFL Players’ Association sponsors the organization and provides grants to kids who can’t afford it.

Taylor said the company vows to never turn away an athlete for financial reasons.

And Taylor said the price is especially worth it for athletes who aren’t superstars and assured NCAA Division I recruits.

Organizations like NCSA are more beneficial to the vast majority of potential recruits who are more qualified for Division II schools or lower.

Hart running back Connor Wingenroth, for example, at 5-foot-11, said he had to work extra hard to contact college coaches and attend showcase camps because he wasn’t a prototypical blue-chip recruit.

“I’m not a bigger guy,” he said. “I don’t stand out by my stature.”

In recent months, Wingenroth has found himself of the radar of some college football teams. He has one offer from Colgate University, a Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) team.

“It helps a lot. Recruiting websites, they can help get your name out there,” Wingenroth said.

Alan Apsay, father of a football and basketball recruit from Canyon High School, agreed with the importance of third-party agencies.

“It’s very different for a parent to send a specific video to a school that they’re interested in,” Apsay said. “Because unless the kid’s a stud... they’re not going to look at you, so these services are really important for these parents to use.”

Apsay did, however, also point out that there are several inexpensive methods by which to publicize a kid’s athletic achievements to the world. Those include Scout.com, Rivals.com, Recruit-Me.com and YouTube. There are also sites like Hudl.com, which is specific to football recruits.

Videos and personal information can be posted on those sites at a minimal cost.

But Taylor argues that many of those sites are more concerned with attracting readers and viewers than helping the recruits themselves.

NCSA focuses on the athletes.

“We help them every step of the way,” Taylor said of athletes who are members at NCSA. “We’re editing their video. We’re posting their transcripts for college coaches. We are advising them every step of the way.”

As for the athletes who don’t stand out as spectacular early on in high school or before, the online trend is catching on in the recruiting game.

Apsay, whose son Cade plays quarterback at Canyon and is committed to play at the University of Colorado, said the colleges started calling within weeks of posting game film of Cade on a handful of sites.

“Football is a funny thing,” Alan Apsay said. “Once they know a kid, Scout.com and Rivals come calling and wanting to know Cade’s interest and they put the information in and they get little videos and things like that.”

And the video trend isn’t exclusive to football.

Internet searches of prominent athletes in the SCV reveal recruiting profiles and highlight reels available for baseball and basketball players as well.

An athlete’s need for assistance in getting his/her name out there is inevitable across all sports.

The money spent to get their kids maximum exposure can vary greatly, but opinions differ on whether every dollar is worth it.

What does seem to be clear is the fact that there are countless avenues for athletes to find ways onto college rosters with the use of the internet and new technology.

It’s a trend that has taken hold in this valley. And for many, it’s working.

dagnew@signalscv.com

661-287-5530

 

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